Archive for the ‘travelling’ Category

Riddles with frogs

A couple of weeks ago, during a hike deep in the city, I stumbled upon what could be termed as a “secret garden”. It was very different from the surrounding woods around it. A flat piece of land, with pools filled with lilies floating on the face of the water. Small bridges criss-crossed the water and lead up to a patch of land with low shrubbery.
A heavy rain has just fallen, and now the sun was coming out, along with most of the animals. Birds were flying low over the water, along with all kinds of insects buzzing around the reeds.
When I stepped in, I was the only person there.
Then I herd a strange noise. It sounded like an old man coughing. At first, I was startled. I looked around to see where the other person was “hiding”, but there was no one there. It was apparent that some kind of animal made that noise. The noises seemed to be coming from the edge of the pool. I walked down among the reeds and found the culprits. It was a bunch of frogs. They all squirmed away except for one, who stayed put, frozen like a statue.
You have to understand, that as memory serves I have never seen a live frog in my life, and certainly not in nature. So I was very excited to see it. I took out my camera and took a few pictures from several angles, and the frog still didn’t move. It just stayed there, modeling for me.

So it was just me and the frog, on a wet patch of land near a pool, in a cool summer day after the rains.

And then, I had this uncomfortable feeling of being an invader. Since I was the only person there, and since I’m not a National Geographic photographer, I’m not used to interacting with animals in nature all by myself. I felt like somehow I was interfering with the sacredness of the place. Taking out my camera, pushing through the leaves, hunkering down, taking the pictures, making noises. Of course I shouldn’t have felt that way. Aren’t humans part of nature? That’s right, sometime we forget it, but we are. As long as we are being an organic part of any natural scene, we are usually welcome. Of course, most people don’t know how to do that. I took out my camera because I wanted to preserve the moment. But you can’t really preserve a moment. All you can do is create a visual memory. The moment is right there in front of you as it happens, and it should be cherished.

When was the last time you went to a zoo? People take out their cameras and are busy taking pictures about 90 percent of the time. The amount of energy they put into photographing the animals is much more than the amount of energy they put into looking at them, actually watching them. They’re too busy creating the visual memory than to actually experience it. I see excessive photographing like this as an offshoot of Western consumerism mentality. We want to “buy” the moment. We want to capture it, put in a little box so we can watch it later – or not. Sometimes, people just take tons of pictures because they can. They have the gadget, don’t they? It’s digital, right? Don’t need to save film with that, you can easily take 400 pictures, so they use it. But it’s an illusion. You can’t save a moment in a little box. It’s already gone before you know it. That’s why it’s so precious.

Being there, in front of the frog, I tried to spend more time actually watching it than photographing it. Between each click I stared at it, looked at its eyes, it’s glands, its yellow mouth.

It was beautiful.

And then it struck me. I’m the only one here, I thought. Except for me, it’s just the animals and the plants. But what if I wasn’t here? Would it still be same? Would there still be frogs? Would the ground still be wet? Would the reeds still be yellow and green?
The minute I stepped into the garden, it became a “garden”. The minute I saw the frogs they became “frogs”. But there was no garden or frogs before I arrived there. It was all just there, existing, being, but it didn’t have any labels attached to it. As humans, we created a set of labels, that sometimes prevents us from seeing the big picture which is always the more real one. Of course, it’s very hard for us to do it any other way. When we see a frog, then it’s a frog. That’s what it’s called. But is it really a frog? Try and say the word “frog” many times one after the other. If you do that (as with any other word), it will lose its meaning and become nothing more than noise. So when a human steps into a situation where a human did not exist before, the situation becomes labeled. It all goes back to that famous riddle:

If a tree falls in the the forest, but there’s no one there to hear it, does it really make a sound?

If I would’ve tried and come up with an answer, then it would be probably be “of course not”, or maybe “it creates sound waves, not sound”. But incessantly looking for answers is another labeling process. The mind wants to understand everything. Sometimes a riddle is much better than any given answer. It opens up many possibilities, while an answer only leaves one.

As we all know, reality is subjective. We perceive the world trough out mind and through our senses. What we see as one thing, is another thing altogether for other creatures that share our world with us. Many of them we can see, but it is also very possible that many we cannot. The world, and the universe, I think, operates on many many levels, and we, as humans, can only comprehend a small part of it.

That is why we should be aware of the labeling process we as humans have. Not only towards nature, but towards other people too. Imagine, if there were no labels, there would be no judgmental thought. Then there would be no hate, no wars, and much less violence in our world. Imagine a world where blacks would not have been feared and hated just because of the color of their skin, or a world where Jews would not have been sent to extermination camps because they were considered “impure” by the horrendously effective Nazi labeling machine.

It is important, for each and every one of us, to be aware that there are many layers to everything in life. It is much reacher then our minds can ever perceive. If we see it solely through the mind’s labeling process, we are missing all the possibilities that this same labeling prevents us from seeing. The world was here before we emerged as a species, and will probably still be here after we’re gone. We should respect it as our home, and we should respect the ones who share it with us – plants, animals and other people. Words are a means of communications. A means to understand the world. But they are not all there is. Beyond the words there’s a vastness of beauty and life that we are ignoring too many times because we’re too busy turning it into something that we can comprehend mentally. Something that we can call by a name. So we can have an opinion.

This post, as is the custom in blogs, will be labeled like crazy. Tags, categories, you have it. This is how the system works. Internet is information, and information is made out of labels.
Because if a post is written, but there’s no one there to read it, was it really ever written?

Indeed, something to ponder…..

Canadian For Beginners

If you are coming to the great and wonderful land of Canada you should learn to communicate with the locals. It’s not easy sometimes, and most times it’s frustrating, but still, once you get the hang of it you’ll be like a fish in Lake Ontario.

I have been here for almost two years now and have compiled a short thesaurus to help you navigate the rough waters of Canadian lingo*:

“It’s cool with a nice breeze” – It’s cold and windy.

“It’s cold” – It’s freezing.

“It’s freezing” – You better leave for the equator.

“It’s hot” – It’s rainy

“It’s rainy” – It’s hot

“What are you doing tonight?” – Wanna go have a drink?

“We need to talk”  –  Wanna go have a drink?

“God, I’m won’t finish this before seven” – Wanna go have a drink after seven?

“I’m unhappy” – Wanna go get drunk together?

“I’m happy” – Wanna go get drunk together?

“I Love You” – Let’s go have a drink in a really nice place.

“Let’s have sex” – Let’s go have a drink in the nude.

“You guys want more beer?” – Beat it or pay up.

“Can you split the bills?” – It’s not like splitting the atom, you know.

“Oh, I’m sorry” – Oh, I’m sorry you stepped on my leg by mistake.

“I apologize” – I apologize, I didn’t notice you pushed me.

“Next stop College street” – You will all be able to breathe soon. (this is more of a Toronto speak, actually).

If you know of more Canadian speak please feel free to add it!

*This list is based upon findings in the Province of Ontario. I wouldn’t count on it being relevant in Quebec. They all speak French there. Not to mention British Columbia, where they all speak British.

Being green

Well, I’ve been here a month now. Came on the train from New York City on a chilly April morning. We crossed the entire state of New York in a ten hour trip. It was pretty amazing. 
I spent the first few days in Toronto at a luxury condominium (for free!) after helping some Israeli guy I met on the Net (no, not on Jdate!) to move some furniture up there. That same guy helped me find the current apartment I’m staying at, until I’ll find a more permanent one, inside the city of Toronto. It was meant to be a temporary thing. Just for a week or so. It’s been a month already.

A month. A whole month have passed here in Richmond Hill, Ontario. Actually, It’s really a nice place. Very green, very quiet. Pretty houses, children on bicycles, families in the park, birds chirping… zzzzzz.

Oh, sorry. I fell asleep there for a minute. The truth is that you really need a car here in order to live a normal life. The nearest grocery store is a 20 minute walk. It’s really insane. It takes me two hours to get to work. I first have to walk to the bus station. That’s 20 minutes right there. The trip itself, to the outskirts of Toronto, takes about half an hour. Then I take the subway to downtown. That’s another 30 minutes. And then I can either walk 15 minutes or wait and take the streetcar. all in all, it takes me almost two hours to get to work, and then two hours again to get back to the land of Far Far Away.
Add to that the fact that I live in a basement with no real windows and you have to ask yourself what the hell am I still doing here. But let’s not beat the apartment thing again. It’s starting to get boring.

Let’s see some pictures instead!

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Crazy White Male

Do you think that finding an apartment in Toronto should be so hard? so FUCKING hard?

Is it me? Yeah, it’s probably me. I’m too spoiled, too touchy, too finicky. Call it what you want. But I know myself, and I know that I won’t be willing to pay a lot of money for a place I don’t like.

Or is the universe? Is it some sort of conspiracy, that at the exact time that I’m looking for a place there seem to be such lame offerings?

It’s probably both. Either way, I think I’m going crazy. My life has turned into a fucking apartment-hunting never-ending nightmare. I’m hopping the subway, busses and streetcars and goes all over this enormous, maddening city in search of a place, but at the end of each day I feel empty, like I’ve wasted mine and everyone else’s time because I really don’t know what I want.

So what is it that I want? Let’s see.

I like being alone from time to time, but not all the time. After two years by myself in a one room apartment I know what it feels like. It suffocates you. So essentially, I’m looking for roommates, but I found it to be extremely hard. I don’t really have much experience with roommates, I only did it once. Anyway, what I realized is that I don’t want to live with roommates to pay a cheaper rent, I want roommates for the company. But problem is that most of the places I saw are houses where every tenant basically stays in his room. these people probably do it to save money. But if I’ll stay in my room all day and just go down to the kitchen once in a while and MAYBE meet someone there, then what’s the point?

And actually, it seems that everyone likes it that way. A place where everyone has different schedules is considered to be ideal. Some ads boast that “you hardly see your roommates”, as if it’s something very positive.

Well, again, the whole idea of roommates, to me – especially considering that I don’t know anyone around here – is to meet new people and not be alone, but if not seeing your roommates and stay in your room is considered a merit, then maybe I’m looking in the wrong place. Maybe apartment seeking isn’t the best way to find new friends. And maybe I’ve watched too many episodes of FRIENDS.

Then there’s the other option, that of living alone. Frankly, I’m torn. There’s nothing like having your own place. Nobody bothers you, you can use the bathroom whenever you want, listen to music, and most especially, watch movies until the wee hours of the night. You are the Lord of your Manor. after all, I’m 33. Maybe I’m too old for this roommates thing.
But the upside is the also downside. You’re alone. Yeah, I can get out (that’s why it’s important for me to find an apartment in an area with cinemas, bars, restaurants, and not a residential neighborhood for families with cars), I can find stuff to do, but every once in a while, I’m going to feel that loneliness, feel that I want to talk to someone, face to face. Hell, sometimes just hearing somebody else in the house (considering it’s not a burglar, of course) can alleviate feelings of loneliness.
And anyway, it’s nice to come home and have someone to talk to. The same someone who locks himself in the bathroom each morning for half an hour, or goes to sleep at 10 pm.

As always, I see the two sides of the coin and find it hard to decide. Indecisiveness is probably my biggest fault, a curse that makes my life pretty miserable, and what’s worse, I feel that it makes the people around me, if not miserable, then very annoyed.

Case in point could be the girl I called to say I’ll take the room in her apartment only too meet with her and discover that we’re not a good fit at all. She wanted to kill me at that moment. I saw it in her eyes. But I made that decision because I was tired of the apartment-hunting and wanted it to end. It was a mistake. Too bad my indecisiveness wasted her time and mine, and made her annoyed. I felt really horrible after that, and really hated myself for my foolishness. I still do.

There are many other factors, like price, area, proximity to the subway, length of lease. At first, I didn’t really know what I wanted. Now I have a better idea, but I’m not quite sure. I’m really all over the place with that one, and that’s no good, but I can’t help it. The inability to focus is my second great vice. Inability to focus and indecisiveness lead to lack of confidence, and that usually leads to writing long winded posts where you try to collect your thoughts together while wondering who will stay to read the whole thing.

So where was I? Oh, yeah, the apartment thing. I’m probably the worst kind of person you could send to look for apartments, yet this is the fifth time I’ve been doing it in the last seven years(!).

Maybe I should’ve been a real estate agent.

The Empire Strikes Back

On my last day in NYC, before going to Toronto, I decided I just had to go to the Empire State Building. I mean, it’s a landmark, isn’t it? Built in the 1920’s, it stands today as the tallest building in the city (now that the Twin Towers are gone). it’s a symbol of New York City if there ever was one. It’s the building King Kong climbed on. It’s majesty and history all rolled into one.

Isn’t it?

Well… it is, but after 20 minutes inside, the Empire State Building becomes only one thing.

A line.

You see, when you approach the building, you see a line. A small, not too intimidating line forms on the sidewalk outside, and you’re inside in less than ten minutes.

In the entrance there’s a sign which notifies of the approximate time to reach the observatory.

Three to four hours.

At that point, I became worried, but I dismissed it as some optical illusion created by the converging of the sun’s rays and the exhaust fumes from the cars.

It must have said 30-40 minutes. Yeah, it must have.

We went up and came upon a BIG line. We stood there for about 40 minutes. Now, this is not Israel, so everybody didn’t become friends for life, but still, you hear different languages, see all kinds of people, it’s really interesting.

Until you want to pee.

That line was for the security check. Next, a line for the actual purchase of the tickets. This one went fast, only about 15 minutes. So I bought my ticket, went ahead, and came upon…

Well, you guessed it. A line. A big line. A HUGE line. The Mother of All Lines.

I was in a dilemma of sorts. On the one hand, I really had to pee. On the other hand, if I’ll go to the bathroom I won’t enter the line, which means that people that came in after me will now be in ahead of me.

Well, what can you do? I went to the bathroom and then came back. The bathrooms, by the way, are very clean. Probably because everyone pees in their pants.

This line (all lines, actually) went ahead in an orderly and amazingly well maintained fashion. either that people are very patient, or they knew what was coming. That didn’t stop some of them from sitting on the floor now and then. I just tried to imagine that sort of line in Israel and came to the conclusion that if the Empire State Building was in Israel it would’ve been torched long ago by an angry line-hating mob.

That line was for the actual entrance into the elevators and it broke down into a couple of smaller lines. We got stopped every few meters by a very polite but firm ESB employee.
I stood about two hours in that line plus the mini-lines.

And then we entered the elevators. Hurray! Hallelujah! Praise the lord!

The elevators went up and my ears started feeling the pressure. the doors opened… we were there, we were at the glorious observatory! we were-

We were in a line again.

Now, this line was the line before you actually enter the observatory. It snaked across an ugly floor which had sign that read: “sorry for our look, we’re renovating!”
Great, not only do I have to stand in line, I have to see beams and paint everywhere.

While we were on that line, each of us had his or her picture taken in front of a huge photograph of the ESB. I has no idea why. It wasn’t voluntary, they photographed everybody. I thought that in the end we’re going to get a cute little memento of our visit, some compensation for standing three hours in line.
We’ll get back to the picture later.

Then, it was finally over and we got into the observatory. The million dollar question is: Was it worth it?

Well, it’s worth it, I guess. The panorama is truly stunning. I took a lot of pictures (see below), went around and around, and eventually got the point and went back inside. All in all I was there for about 20 minutes. 3.5 hours in line for 20 minutes. Crazy, ha?

So I was out, and I thought that I’m just going to take the elevator down, get out to the street, and go home to rest my aching body.

But no. There were lines on the way out. We stood about 15 minutes in line to get out of the floor. On the way out, we came to a long stand which had everybody’s pictures in it. “That’s nice”, I thought, “now we’ll get our pictures in return for all the trouble we went through”.

And we could get our picture, we only had to pay 25 dollars.

25 dollars. that’s more than 100 NIS. For a fucking picture. I said “no, thanks”. It really annoyed me that they are taking our picture without asking us and then trying to sell it to us for a ridiculously high price.

The ESB is a money machine. On the way up, through the lines, they try to sell you all kinds of things like audio commentaries and movie simulations, and on the observatory deck there is of course a gift shop full of silly, expensive stuff. But hey, if you’re a tourist, you asked for it.

But in the end, there’s nothing like seeing the greatest city in the world from sky high. It is truly awe-inspiring

Go to part 2 for the pictures and judge for yourself if it was worth it 🙂

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Take the Fifth

Everyone in this town seem to be busy, busy, busy. Going to and fro, hither and tither, like an ultimate New York cliche. Everyobody’s going everywhere. But you know what?

Thay’re not really doing anything.

They go shopping, mostly. Or eating out. Or just strolling around. The art form most prevelant in New York is “The Art of Looking Busy”.

“Hey, sorry I didn’t call you back, I was very busy”. “I had a busy month”. “Life is really busy for me”. “I’m busy, busy, BUSY!”.

Jerry Seinfeld, a perfect New Yorker if there ever was one, had the perfect answer for this greatest of all excuses:

What do you mean you’re too busy? Pick up a phone!

Yesterday I joined all the Busy Little Bees and walked down the famous 5th Avenue. My destination: New York’s Public Library on 42nd street.

On the way there I went onto F.A.O Schwarz, the famous toy store. To tell you the truth, it’s not as big as I thought it would be. After all the hype, I expected a palace of toys and games.  Don’t get me wrong, it’s a big store, but not huge. Either way, the store is filled with pretty cool stuff. I got to witness a lightsaber fight by two store employees who used the new Official Star Wars Lightsaber Toy. It’s nice, but it’s just plastic with light. I wouldn’t shell out 130 dollars for it.

My main objective, of course, was to find the famous Piano. Remeber this scene?

Well, I did find it but I only looked, not played on it. The place was filled with toddlers running around over it, and I felt stupid joining them.

5th Avenue is amazing. the buildings are sky high and the shops are gigantic. I went into Trump Tower and listened to a brief concerto in the garden inside the complex. I went into NBC studios tower and didn’t see Conan O’brayen. I went and saw Rockafeller Center, with the beautiful and famous Ice rink, and I passed Tiffany’s on the way, and although It was way past breakfast, I just had to go in and take a look.

Boy, did I feel inadequate with my jeans and sweatshirt. This is quite a glamorous place. It has four floors or so, but I was only on the first. I felt that if I’ll stay there too long, they’ll find out I have 5 bucks in my pocket and throw me out. At one point I realized I’m walking with my hands behind my back, as if afraid that someone will ask if I need any help.

But hey, it’s Tiffany’s. I just had to get in.   

Oh, and yeah, I bought a hot dog on the street corner. About time, wouldn’t you say? The guy with the hot dog cart was busy assembling a cell phone when I approached. I was a little disappointed. I expected him to wear a funny hat and a giant moustache and say:”A hot dog for you, sir?” but I bought the hot dog anyway, in a tiny bun.

From there, to the big and reneissance themed Library building, which was closed, Although my sourcs told me it should be open. But hey, I had a good time on the way and went into many places I didn’t plan on visiting.

To conclude my journey and go home I went inside Grand Central, the main bus and trains depot of the city. Well, what can you say about a town where the bus depot is a tourist attraction? The archytecture is breathtaking, like something straight out of the 1930’s. That was the first time I really wished I had a camera. Maybe I’ll go back there sometime and snap some photos.

And then I went down to the subway and joined all the bees on the way uptown. It was a very tiring day, but fun.

I’m still waiting to find some people to whom I can speak with words other than “how much is this?” and “thanks”.

Maybe I should just get myself more busy.

Excuses

Yesterday I saw a squirrel.

He was bouncing through the greenery at Union Square, and it was absolutely delightful, since I’ve never seen a squirrel for real before. Certainly not in the middle of a big city.

It was after I somewhat got lost at the East Village/Soho area and sat down for a minute to consult the map I got at the Subway station, only to realize that right there, in Union Square, there’s a Subway to take me home.

It became a hobby of mine to get lost in the city. As big cities go, this place is relatively easy to get around in, and like I said at an earlier post, you just go wherever you feel like and find new things at each corner.

NYU was just around the corner, and watching the students roam the streets, I felt again that twinge of sadness about the fact that I haven’t really got to experience college life, certainly not in a place like this, but it soon passed. There comes a time when you just have to leave that stuff behind you. You are what you are. 

I went to the East Village for a rather stupid reason: To find Israelis. To make a long story short, I am seeking a temporary apartment, preferably with roommates, and I realized my best chance would be to hook up with Israelis. Someone told me that the East Village is full of them. The thing is, the minute I got out of my house I knew it was just an excuse. I didn’t want to sit at home and it gave me an excuse to visit another part of Manhattan. Do you really think that when I got there I started going into the felafel stores and ask about apartments? No, I didn’t. I just walked a lot, looked at the spectacular buildings, went south into Soho, and saw the Empire State Building from afar (I think). I thought about walking all the way towards it, but it was more distant than it seemed, so I passed on it. Anyway, it was a great little hike. It’s obviously a student town, with Internet Cafes and Zerox shops… And sqirrels too.

Yes, I’m trying to find excuses to go places. I’m not much of a tourist, you see. I don’t like to tour for the sake of it, and I certainly detest guided tours. If anything, I like to do it solo, be my own master. But I need a reason. In the first few days I went to buy a cell phone and a laptop and during my searches I toured half the neighborhood. After that was over, I went to the East Village to look for Israelis. the minute I got there I forgot about that and just made it a day. I went to a sports store and bought myself a shirt, I watched the architecture and the people. I just didn’t feel like searching for Israelis and asking them about apartments. I wanted to have fun.

I know I’m repressing the fact that I NEED to solve this apartment thing, but fuck it.

Now, today I didn’t have any excuses or reasons left anymore. If I am to go anywhere, I said to myself, I’ll just have to do it. Go somewhere just for the sake of it. I wasn’t comfortable with that, but at the end, there is a limit to the amount of excuses one can have for stepping out. Sometimes you just have to be a tourist.

So I went to the Metropolitan Museum of Art. I’m not a big museums enthusiast, but the Met (as it is called) is a 10 minute walk from my apartment, and it looks so awesome from the outside, that I decided I’ll chance it and hoped I wouldn’t be bored to tears.

Well, it was quite an interesting experience, and I certainly enjoyed it, but I’ve written a lot already and I’m tired, or rather, my hands are tired, so I think I’ll have to take a raincheck on that.

Actually, I don’t really know if it’s such an interesting story to tell. I mean, it’s a HUGE museum, with hundreds of artifacts, sculptures and paintings, some of them are truly amazing, but the minute I got there and realized there’s a cafeteria somewhere in the building, I spent half the time looking for that elusive cafeteria, and during my searches saw half the museum.

At the end I found it and sat down, at last, to cheeseburger and fries. I mean, all this walking made me hungry. So if you’ll ever go the Met, and search for the cafeteria, just know it’s right below the Renaissance paintings section.

There, I saved you two hours.

Let it snow

The city is covered in snow. I pretend it’s Christmas and I hum “let it snow” while strolling my temporary Manhattan neighborhood in the Upper east side.

I feel excited. Everything is new and fresh to me, and the fact it’s covered in white makes it all the better. I stand in front of a snow covered staircase and just stare at it. I’ve never seen a snow covered staircase, except for in the movies. It’s really amusing when you think about it. People come to New York to see the Statue of Liberty or to shop in Bloomingdale’s, but I get a kick out of stairs with snow on them.

The white coating seem so pure, so fresh, so different than what I’m used to. It’s just perfect, and although it’s quite cold, it’s not so cold as to make me suffer or not enjoy myself. I welcome the cold, I relish it, because it’s a different experience for me and it makes me feel more alive.

But not all is such a poetic experience. The streets are also covered with melting snow, and one has to jump from street corner to street corner in order to avoid them. So I find myself jumping, like the rest of the people. We’re all jumping over the puddles, over the mountains of melting ice, and it bonds us together in a strange way, and it makes me feel like a child again. My feet get a little wet, and it’s not really comfortable, but all I have to do is get into a store and warm myself up.

You see, the stores are shelters, so I find reasons to go inside them. I went into a Barnes and Noble, a huge bookstore with thousands of books on every subject imaginable. People are sitting on the floor, reading, talking about books, or drinking coffee in the lounge. It’s almost like heaven on earth.

I know I should’ve posted some pictures, but I had so many things to buy, including the computer on which I’m writing this post, that i’m trying not to go overboard, and cameras here are more expensive then I thought they would be. Maybe soon I’ll buy one. I’m also trying not to have the word “tourist” plastered all over me. I don’t carry a map, for example. I try to blend in, to act like I belong here, that I know where I’m going, although I have no idea. And it’s more fun this way.

So for now, you’ll just have to imagine. Hey, maybe it’s better this way. 

I like to be outside and see people. there are people everywhere, all kinds of people, talking in many languages. As it happened, my first day here was also St. Patrick’s day, so the streets were filled with loud Irish folk with green hats. It was real fun! Their joy made me happy, and although I’m not Irish to say the least, I wanted to join them in their celebration.

Basically, there’s something exciting about being where nobody knows you. I hear Hebrew on the streets and I get a kick out of the fact that nobody knows where I’m from (until I open my mouth, that is).

Because there are always people on the streets, you really don’t have to sit at home and be alone. Somehow, I don’t feel alone outside, even though I don’t know anyone. It seems to be a city of lonely people grouping together. I don’t see a lot of couples in the street. I don’t see a lot of large groups, except for obvious tourists. But I see a lot of people walking alone, holding their Starbucks cup, talking on the cell, reading a newspaper, and I feel it’s OK to be alone here, that it’s not frowned upon. I went into a matinee show at the local movie house just because I felt like it.  And yes, I was alone, and I didn’t mind. Perhaps it will change, but for now, I’m ok with it.

Yesterday evening I was hungry. I sat for hours in front of the computer, looking for an apartment. I DON’T WANT TO BE IN FRONT OF THE COMPUTER ALL DAY AGAIN! It was really depressing, so I decided to get out. It was really cold outside, and I could’ve gone down to the store and buy something or order food, but I wanted to go out and eat with other people. I want to experience the city, and eating alone at home in front of the TV isn’t my idea of fun. I know it to well.

So I went out and looked for a pizza place and I found one, and it was perfect. It was nice and cosy and warm, exactly what I was looking for. On the way there, I passed through a small playground with antique looking benches. It was covered in snow from beginning to end, and it was beautiful and quaint. It looked like something out of a fairy tale. I half expected to see Galadriel floating down the steps, radiating light.

And suddenly, I was overjoyed. I don’t think I realized the extent to which my life has been a humdrum affair, how I lacked excitement and beauty, how I let my self die inside, how depressed and zombie-like I was. The wind blew hard, and my throat swelled just looking at this beautiful place in the middle of this great city, and I don’t know exactly why it happened, but this snow… this pristine snow covering everything, purifying everything… It felt like it was also purifying my soul, and the beauty of this little snow garden overwhelmed me.

So I just stood there, and let myself cry a little. 

Chapter One

I planned on writing a much lengthier post today, but I just don’t have the time. It’s been a tiring, hectic week. So much stuff to do-and to pack! It’s crazy. THIS is crazy.

Ain’t it, woody?

Too much information

They say knowledge is power. But knowledge is also a bother.

All I want to do is book a hotel in NYC. Not the cheapest one, but hardly the most expensive, either. There’s dozens and dozens of them on websites such as Hotels.com with all the info you could want, which, in the best tradition of the online age, includes some user reviews. These reviews mess with your head. Some of them liked the hotel, some hated it. It’s usually very subjective. So what am I supposed to get from these review? That John from Ireland had a blast but Jane from Arkansas hated every minute of it? All I need is a place to stay for a few days while I sort out some little things like, I don’t know, FINDING A PLACE TO LIVE, for example.

Now, I don’t mean the Hilton, folks, I mean those cheap little hotels like Super 8 or Howard Johnson. As a matter of fact, what I’ve come to learn is that there are no CHEAP hotels in NYC, just good expensive hotels and crappy expensive hotels.

Case in point: I spent almost three hours until 3 in the morning trying to find a suitable hotel, but failed miserably The next morning, my modem went dead. With no Internet, I thought it was a perfect opportunity to hop down to the travel agency, maybe they could find me a decent hotel. After all, it’s what they do.

After some checking, and with a strong endorsement from the travel agent (“It’s a great deal”) I decided to go for it and even pay a bit more than I planned, as long as I find something already.

I left there with a sense of relief. I had a place to stay. I won’t be living on a bench. When I got home, I took the computer to the lab in order to fix it (“You just had to push this button”) and then got back home, went online, and googled the hotel I just paid 600 dollars for because it was such a great fucking deal. And this is what I saw.

Now, I don’t think I’m that finicky. I can weather some tough conditions if there’s no other choice or if the end justifies the means, but I also want to be somewhat comfortable, and I hate, absolutely hate, ugly, dirty places (except for my apartment).

It could be that they all got it wrong somehow. It could be it’s a great place. But after reading this, I just couldn’t do it. I phoned the travel agent and asked her to cancel the reservation. Now I need to find another hotel for those 600 dollars, I guess. I could take a more pricey one, and stay for a shorter period, but then I’m afraid I wouldn’t have enough time to find a more permanent residence. This is such a bother, that I even considered to skip NY altogether and just go to LA. Did you know that in LA you can get a decent three star hotel for 150 bucks a night and in NY it will buy you a rat infested crib? I think that’s very interesting. Nevertheless, finding an apartment in LA isn’t easy, and I would be stuck in hotel probably for a long time, and the hole in my pocket will get wider and wider.

I guess it’s a good thing. I guess it’s a positive thing. But sometimes I feel that If only I didn’t have all this information. If only I didn’t feel the need to read all these user comments about all these hotels, I would be blissfully unaware of anything and perhaps decide much faster. I mean, all this information is supposed to help me decide faster, but it causes the exact opposite. Because I don’t think there’s an ultimate truth. Now, of course if EVERYONE says that a certain place is crappy it probably is, but what about those places where some say it’s crap and some say it’s awesome?

There’s just too much information these days. And you know what’s really irritating? That yes, sometimes you can absorb all that information, and make good use of it, make an informed decision, feel like you’ve beaten the system, feel like the king of the world…

And still get fucked.